Monday, February 11, 2013

UPND, heed Katele's advice

UPND, heed Katele's advice
By The Post
Mon 11 Feb. 2013, 14:20 CAT

Talking about stiff-neckedness in politics, what immediately comes to one's mind is the political approach of the UPND. It seems the UPND has not fully recognised the scale of its defeat in the last three elections and of its problem. This is a political party whose political fortunes have been seriously declining, but wants to behave as if all is well and its political fortunes are rising.

The causes of the UPND's poor political performance may be many. But we believe that restrictive politics is what has pushed the UPND much into this position. The UPND's performance in most parts of our country other than Southern Province cannot be said to be impressive or satisfactory.

Before the 2011 elections, the UPND thought they were more popular than the Patriotic Front and MMD in Lusaka and on the Copperbelt. We don't think, going by the results of the last elections, they can today say or think the same way. The performance of the UPND in Lusaka and on the Copperbelt was extremely poor and embarrassing. But they don't seem to have learnt anything from that poor performance.

Their performance in Luapula, Northern and Eastern provinces was also very poor. But here there is nothing accidental. If they were honest with themselves, they would have known long in advance that there was nothing for them in Luapula, Northern and Eastern provinces because they did no serious political work there. Hakainde Hichilema rarely goes to Luapula, Northern or Eastern provinces.

To Hakainde and UPND, Zambia seems to be Southern, Western, North Western provinces and here and there in Lusaka Province. We wonder how the UPND expected to get reasonable votes in Luapula, Northern and Eastern provinces where they had done no serious political work! Of course, we have heard stories that the UPND doesn't want to waste its money and time in Luapula and Northern provinces because whatever they do, the people are decided against them and won't vote for them. If this is the case, then what is their future? Can they ever expect to win a general election and form government without attracting sufficient votes from these other provinces?

It seems they are trying to find a way around this through political and electoral pacts or alliances. They think since they cannot be accepted or voted for in Luapula, Northern, Eastern and now Muchinga provinces, the solution is to go into pacts with political parties they believe can deliver the votes in those provinces for them. Will this work? We doubt it.

UPND should learn from its history and realise that in 2001 - the year of the party's best and last good electoral performance - its presidential candidate Anderson Mazoka scored relatively well in Luapula, Northern and Eastern provinces. That performance has never been repeated by UPND. Why?

If the leadership of the UPND thinks it can increase its political support base and see a reversal of its political fortunes without spreading its tentacles to all the parts of our country, they are wasting their time. It is not possible for the UPND to win a national election with a regional formation.

Today, without malice or prejudice, UPND can truthfully and fairly be categorised as a regional party of Southern Province. And they are not making serious efforts to break this. Their attempts through pacts or alliances to gain votes in areas they are not operating in politically will not do. If they want to win any general election, they have no choice but to start seriously mobilising in Luapula, Northern, Muchinga and Eastern provinces.

There is also need for the UPND to realise that whereas they themselves are not making any progress in Luapula, Northern, Muchinga and Eastern provinces, the Patriotic Front is seriously consolidating itself in these areas and making reasonable advances in North Western, Western and Southern provinces. Soon the UPND will increasingly start finding it difficult to maintain their very high percentage of votes in Southern Province. And their votes in Western and North Western provinces are bound to start declining.

This is so because even in these areas their politics have been anchored on regionalism. Sometimes they have taken very contradictory positions on the issues of Western Province, appearing to be supporting or encouraging secessionists. But how will that benefit them? How are they going to benefit as a political party from Western Province breaking away?

And they are also forgetting that there is a very low voter turnout from secessionist elements. Also they are wrong in thinking that is a very popular position. The great majority of the people of Western Province are very opposed to breaking away. Theirs is clearly a case of misguided regionalism and tribal politics.

Regional politics will not put UPND and Hakainde in government. And it is time they started moving away from that failed type of politics.

What we don't know is whether Hakainde and UPND are capable of moving away from region and tribe-based politics. We say this because listening to them speak, their political talk is always laced with tribal or regional patronage. It is something that seems to be difficult to shed, hence their excessive dependence on cheap and useless political pacts or alliances.

This leadership of UPND is caught in a region and tribe web that it weaved for itself. What a web we weave for ourselves when we first decide to practice regional or tribal politics!

Probably it is this realisation that is making UPND leaders and supporters appear frustrated and increasingly intolerant and violent. They are increasingly equating bravery in politics to arrogance, lack of respect for others, slander, malice. But the effect of all this on them is negative.

It is negative because their attitude itself, their political practices are negative. They are bitter elements. They are bitter with those they think are causing them political problems by exposing their fallacies and illusions. But bitterness and arrogance are not a good recipe for thinking well. They are actually a recipe for political disaster.

Listen to what comes out of their mouths as a result of this bitterness, anger and frustration. All they do all the time is to malign, slander and try to humiliate their real or perceived political opponents. But what does that do for them? Increase their standing in the eyes of the people? Certainly not. Instead, they are increasingly lowering, cheapening themselves.

These are the challenges the leadership, cadres, members and supporters of UPND have to confront in an extremely honest, sober and humble manner if they are to harbour any hope of a reversal of political fortunes. And Katele's observations on their politics are valid and they will ignore them at their own peril.

Actually UPND is a party in serious crisis. We know they will not accept this. They will dismiss this as opinions of their enemies, a newspaper they have declared enemy number one.

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